Hot races, high stakes on big night for GOP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., celebrates Tuesday with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville, Ky.Associated Press
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., celebrates Tuesday with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville, Ky.
Associated Press

By Calvin Woodward
Associated Press

Republicans rolled up the string of victories they needed Tuesday night to seize control the Senate, the biggest prize in the midterm elections. North Carolina put them over the top.

This, while seeing two vulnerable GOP governors defeat their challengers in marquee races in Wisconsin and Florida.

Altogether, Republicans needed to gain six seats to win back the Senate majority they lost in 2006. They swiftly achieved that, and maybe more.


Republicans switched West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana to their column, as widely expected, then added Arkansas, where incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor lost a closely fought race.

Colorado made it five pickups, as Democratic incumbent Mark Udall lost to Rep. Cory Gardner.

Meantime Democrats’ push for a turnover in Kentucky failed when GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell won re-election in his closely watched race. And their hopes of seeing an independent defeat Sen. Pat Roberts in Kansas — one possible path to keeping Democrats in charge of the Senate — came to nothing.

Then came North Carolina, the most expensive Senate race in the nation. Republican Thom Tillis beat Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan to clinch Senate control for the GOP.

Voters also were picking a new House of Representatives, choosing governors in three dozen states and deciding more than 100 ballot measures.

Democrats entered the night with a 53-45 Senate majority, plus two independents who usually have supported them.

Thirty-six seats were contested. Senators serve six-year terms, meaning those elected Tuesday will serve through the next president’s first term.

Outstanding races held further possibilities for the GOP, Alaska and Louisiana among them. They failed in New Hampshire, where Democrat Jeanne Shaheen held off a high-profile challenge from Republican Scott Brown.

Democrats had hoped to see Republicans defeated in Georgia as well as Kansas but the GOP held on.


Republicans now hold a 234-201 majority in the House. Every election puts all 435 House seats in play. No one doubts the GOP will keep control of that chamber; the question is how many seats they’ll gain.

Some two dozen Democrats, along with four Republicans, are seen as vulnerable. If Republicans defeat the most endangered Democratic incumbents and win open seats in North Carolina, Utah and New York, they might end the night with as many as 246 seats, the most for the party since World War II.


The GOP is defending 22 governor’s seats, Democrats 14.

Many of the nation’s incumbent state CEOs were vulnerable, more so than usual. A half-dozen Republican governors who swept into office, some with tea party support, in 2010 faced fierce challenges in the campaign.

Among them: GOP Gov. Sam Brownback in solidly Republican Kansas. But another, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, on the ballot for the third time in four years, defeated Democratic challenger Mary Burke. That cleared a huge hurdle for Walker as he prepares for a possible run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Democrats and their labor allies had salivated at the prospect of defeating the governor who effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers in the state after his election in 2010.

In Florida, GOP Gov. Rick Scott also held on to office in the nation’s largest swing state despite a strong challenge from Democrat Charlie Crist, a former GOP governor who changed parties to run for his old job.

But in Pennsylvania, GOP Gov. Tom Corbett fell to Democrat Tom Wolf.

Several Democrats entered the day struggling to win election, most notably in reliably blue New England.

Topping that list is Martha Coakley, who ought to be a shoo-in as a Democrat in Massachusetts. But the state’s attorney general, who also lost a bid for Senate in 2010, could fall to Republican Charlie Baker.


Voters experienced sporadic glitches but there were no immediate signs of anything serious enough to affect the outcome of an election.

Virginia officials reported problems with 32 machines that prevented voters from immediately casting accurate ballots. A Georgia website designed to help voters locate polling places directed many users instead to an error messages. A Connecticut judge ordered two polling places in Hartford to stay open a half hour late.

Crist’s campaign for Florida governor filed a motion to extend voting by two hours in Broward County. It was denied.


Americans historically vote in lower numbers in midterm elections than when motivated by a presidential race.

Both parties used sophisticated methods to find and recruit voters from the 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Democrats had the most at stake, since their voters are more likely to drop off in a midterm.

There were signs the strategy was working. More than 20 million people in 35 states had voted in advance, either in person or by mail, according to figures compiled as of early afternoon Tuesday.


In Connecticut, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican Thomas Foley are in rematch of their 2010 race, which Malloy won by fewer than 6,500 votes.

In Colorado: Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez were in a tight race going into Election Day.


Among nearly 150 ballot measures being decided Tuesday: legalization of recreational marijuana use in Alaska, Washington, D.C., and Oregon. Anti-abortion measures in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee. Labeling requirements for certain genetically modified foods in Colorado and Oregon.